On Trail: Brain Damaged in Borakalalo

Sunset at Borakalalo

Borakalalo was another gem established by the Bophuthatswana government. It surrounds the Klipvoor Dam and is now part of the National Park’s portfolio controlled by the North West Province. The dam was originally built for agricultural purposes and it became a favourite fishing spot for many years.

When it was established, the senior ranger, Louwyn van Velden, was tasked with clearing fences, building staff homes and the entrance, and establishing walks, drives and campsites. Borakalalo means “the place where people relax”. One Sunday morning I was forced to do just that. My head was wrapped in bandages with a twelve centimetre laceration extending from my forehead to my occiput and I had a pounding headache.

We were up at the reserve clearing old farm fences on Saturday that would allow the rhino to move freely through the 14 000 hectare piece of beautiful bushveld.  Some of the fence poles were really stuck in the ground and the easiest way to removed them was with a push pull action, using your body weight to pull towards you and then push away from you. As I was getting into rhythm on my umpteenth pole the pole broke at the base and I pulled it onto my head. I was covered with blood instantly and tasted the metallic salt in my mouth. It was easy to stop the bleeding: we wrapped a turban of towels around my head and I applied pressure with my hands. I lay down in the middle seat of the trusty kombi and Allan drove me to Brits, about eighty kilometres away. We passed the old lady’s spaza shop in the late afternoon, as I was in no mood and had no appetite for a delicious mince filled vetkoek. Further on the road, which was covered in thick sand and driving the kombi was a bit like surfing with the wave action, we saw a lone man weaving on the side of the road. He was looking for a ride to the next town, now forty kilometres away. Against our better judgement we stopped to pick him up. He was dead drunk and the fumes emanating from all his skin and his breath were enough to anaesthetise me. He turned out to be quite entertaining and we had a good laugh and we laughed even more when we stopped to let him out and he fell out of the front door of the kombi.

We found a doctor to suture the wound. I seem to remember a real pretty “poppie” assistant nurse who helped and impressed both Allan and I, and then we returned back to camp and I did the relaxing.

The funny thing is that Sunday evening my parents were leaving for Greece and I promised to meet them at the airport to say goodbye. I was still in my khakis with dried blood patches and had covered my clot matted hair with my khaki hat. My father was so caught up in the airport buzz that he instinctively took my hat off and raffled my hair when he saw me. It must have felt really dirty and spiky, but he said nothing and the next day I had bruising around my eyes and had less of a headache.

The trusty kombi

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